Hurricane Irene Ruins Weekend Box Office Sales

As people in the path of Hurricane Irene are forced to either evacuate their homes or shut themselves in, the weekend box office numbers are looking as dismal as the weather.

Reuters reports that early estimates suggest that numbers for this weekend could be down by nearly 20 percent from last year, due largely to the hurricane that has shut down most of the East Coast.

“The Help,” a film about a writer who causes a stir in a small Mississippi town during the 1960s, brought in $4.4 million on Friday and is expected to reach $15.5 million for the whole weekend, making it the front-runner to be the weekend's top earner.

Columbiana, a revenge film that is set in South America and features actress Zoe Saldana (who also appeared in films like “Star Trek” and “Avatar”), brought in $3.8 million on Friday with an estimated opening weekend total of $10 million.

It is followed closely by Guillermo del Toro's “Don't Be Afraid of the Dark,” which also opened on Friday and took in $3.6 million for the day and has an estimated three-day total of just over $9 million.

“The Rise of the Planet of the Apes” earned $2.6 million on Friday, and has a total weekend estimate of $9 million.

The comedy “Our Idiot Brother,” which features Paul Rudd as an absurd, hairy, but kind sibling to three annoyed sisters, pulled in only $2.4 million and is expected to bring in $6.6 million total for its opening weekend.

Theater chains with locations along the Atlantic coast, like AMC and Clearview, began closing up shop on Saturday, and anticipate being closed through the weekend.

Makers of “The Help” will surely be glad to see their film finish atop the box office charts for the second weekend in a row, though it would have been much sweeter if the millions of coastal residents that are trapped indoors could have gone out to see it too.